Sky-High WiFi

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Air Force photo / Senior Airman Corey Hook

An E-11A Global Express aircraft readies for takeoff from Kandahar Airfield, in Afghanistan.

If civilian passengers can now get the Internet on airplanes, shouldn’t troops be able to get it on the battlefield?

The Air Force has just awarded Northrop Grumman a $20 million contract to do just that, by adding new communications gear to its E-11A aircraft.

In geek-speak, the service is adding “beyond-line-of-sight command and control (BLOS C2) capabilities to the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) information gateway system.”

The BACN system aboard the E-11A offers situational awareness and command and control coordination among war-fighters by bridging and extending voice communications and battlespace information from numerous sources since 2008. The small fleet has logged more than 3,000 sorties over Afghanistan, wirelessly linking troops despite the mountainous terrain.

Bottom line: soon U.S. warfighters will have “access to full-motion video, imagery, voice over Internet protocol and chat messages from multiple sources,” Northrop says, “essentially creating a wireless Internet over the battlefield.”

Think of it as the ultimate hot spot.